What do Kingston, Portsmouth and Sussex all have in common?
Well, they’ve all been rated as having a high crime rate by the new police crime statistics map for a start. And what’s more, it’s making people think twice about where they want to live.
Sam Jackson, a teaching assistant and mother, is worried by Kingston’s high crime rate. “If I lived somewhere with a high crime rate I’d be scared to go out in the evening and I’d also be worried for young girls on nights out. I’d definitely not move to an area with a high crime rate and it puts me off coming to Kingston. I think it’s important that we know about crime rates in different areas so we can make these decisions.”
Worryingly, the map reveals that Kingston had 429 incidents of crime in December alone. The site specifies what type of crimes these were, which fall into six broad categories. Over 100 of December’s crimes were violent, while the majority fell into the category of anti-social behaviour, drug offences and shoplifting.
President of the SU, Tj Esubiyi, is concerned by what the map reveals. “It is rather disconcerting to know there are such high rates of crime in central Kingston. To ensure the safety of our students I’m keen that something is done to bring the rates down. My advice to students is simply; if you have to travel at night, don’t do so alone and travel well lit streets. And of course, ensure that if you catch a taxi, you get a licensed one.”
So are detailed crime rates something students really want to know?
David Moore, director of Rock Kitchen Harris, producers of the software, believes his technology can help people make important decisions. “We really hope this will mean the public are better informed about crime and anti-social behaviour where they live”, he explains. “If people are concerned or unhappy about what they find out, or if they want to help the police, then we have provided ways for them to get in touch with their local officers for more explanations and to discuss what they can do.”
Natasha Madden, 19, who regularly visits Kingston on nights out isn’t convinced. “I don’t worry about the high crime rates in places nearby because I think as long as you’re sensible and don’t do things that put you at risk then you should be all right. I won’t let it stop me.”
“It’s quite good as its interesting to know about, but I wouldn’t consider it essential.”
But Hannah, a second year student, is more concerned. “I do worry about safety, and seeing the crime maps can make it worse – but I’d rather be in the know than ignorant and at risk.”
The technology behind the £300,000 project gives police forces a simple and consistent way to provide important information to the public. “In most cases updating the site is very easy for forces and it will become easier over time,” says Moore. “Initial feedback is very positive, many people welcome the information and want more detail on crimes, trends and what they can do to help to reduce crime levels and avoid being a victim themselves.
“They want to see how many crimes resulted in a prosecution, they would like to report crime online, see crime data integrated with other local information and much more.”
The whole project was worked on by a vast number of people, including the Rock Kitchen Harris team, police officers at the National Policing improvement Agency (NPIA), as well as others with important skills in key areas.
Explaining how the technology came about Moore says: “We produced initial designs then worked with the police centrally and all of the 43 independent forces to evaluate what information they could provide and how this could be translated into an easy to use website. We also provide this data to the public and other developers transparently with csv files of key data and an API.”
“Our site is the first on this scale anywhere in the world but it is a work in progress, all involved will listen to the feedback and evaluate and implement improvements. It will also be fascinating to see how the open data is used by the developer community to create their own applications and websites.”
“We think this is an important step and there is a lot to debate but this is just the start of a very long journey.”